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Emotional and behavioural problems in young children with autism spectrum disorder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Susie Chandler, Patricia Howlin, Emily Simonoff, Tony O'Sullivan, Evelin Tseng, Juliet Kennedy, Tony Charman, Gillian Baird

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)202-208
Number of pages7
JournalDevelopmental Medicine and Child Neurology
Issue number2
Early online date16 Jun 2015
Accepted/In press18 May 2015
E-pub ahead of print16 Jun 2015
Published1 Feb 2016


King's Authors


Aim: To assess the frequency, pervasiveness, associated features, and persistence of emotional and behavioural problems in a community sample of young children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Method: Parents (n=277) and teachers (n=228) of 4- to 8-year-olds completed the Developmental Behaviour Checklist (DBC). Intellectual ability and autism symptomatology were also assessed. A subsample repeated the DBC. Results: Three-quarters of the cohort scored above the clinical cut-off on the Developmental Behaviour Checklist Primary Carer Version (DBC-P) questionnaire; almost two-thirds of these scored above cut-off on the Developmental Behaviour Checklist Teacher Version (DBC-T) questionnaire. In 81%, problems persisted above threshold 14 months later. Higher DBC-P scores were associated with greater autism symptomatology, higher deprivation index, parental unemployment, and more children in the home but not with parental education or ethnicity, or child's age or sex. Children with IQ>70 scored higher for disruptive behaviour, depression, and anxiety symptoms; those with IQ<70 scored higher for self-absorption and hyperactivity. Interpretation: The DBC identifies a range of additional behaviour problems that are common in ASD and which could be the focus for specific intervention. The results highlight the potential benefit of systematic screening for co-existing problems.

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